The Israel Double-Standard, 'Merchant of Venice' Edition

Does it surprise anyone that an Israeli theater company's staging of "The Merchant of Venice" in London is controversial, and does it surprise anyone that the controversy centers not on the anti-Semitic aspects of the play, but on the (anti-Semitic) demands of anti-Israel activists to scapegoat Israel by boycotting its cultural exports? I was just in the Kennedy Center in Washington last week, and took note on the schedule of an upcoming performance by a Chinese theater troupe. Visits by Chinese artists seldom, if ever, provoke widespread calls for boycott, even though China is engaged in a systematic campaign to wipe-out Tibetan culture, and, more to the point, Tibetans. Only Israel is scapegoated. In a wonderful op-ed in yesterday's Times, Stephen Marche takes note of this unique phenomenon:

Israel, uniquely among nations, suffers from being turned into a synecdoche -- of the part being taken for the whole. The other theater companies involved in the Globe's program -- whether from China, Zimbabwe or the United States -- are simply not subject to the same scrutiny of their nation's politics. No one would think of boycotting the English theater because Britain had been involved in the bloody occupation of two countries in recent memory. That would be absurd. Yet it is not absurd when it comes to Israel.

Marche has written a very powerful piece. Read the whole thing.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.